Hi, one of the Forensics supervisors here.SilverBreeze wrote: ↑January 27th, 2020, 1:08 amAbout the Forensics test(5): I really loved the difficulty and breadth of the questions(gives us lab-impaired people something to do), and the length of the test kept us busy the whole block and would have taken many hours and much effort to write.
I wish the test had been a bit more on-spec(minor issues with a mixture; it was an interesting challenge though, however frustrating) and asked a bit less physics(though that's probably my fault for being unprepared).
We were so rushed that we only realized the bottle labeled "NaOH" was HCl at the end when it turned pH paper red and fizzed in a sample, but I understand Forensics takes an immense amount of time and effort to set up(especially with this test, which had, for example, real fibers, plastics, and chromatography) and that mistakes do happen. The bottle labeled "HCl" was indeed HCl, though. I wish we had figured it out earlier, but things could have gone worse, and I was very satisfied with the way the event had been set up and run overall.
The mixture is a classic bonus challenge that we put in, so it's entirely optional and up to teams on whether they want to attempt it or not. Usually when we do it tho, we make sure to make the powders involved extremely easy to differentiate between each other. An example would be using cornstarch, sodium carbonate, and ammonium chloride. All three can be separated by turning black in iodine, having a massively high pH, and turning dark blue with addition of Benedicts, respectively. Yeah...it's technically against the rules, but that's why we make it optional.
One of the other supervisors was the one who added the physics questions, and in my opinion, they were definitely incredible and great behind-the-scenes looks at how things in the SciOly Forensics world work. For example, knowing how mass spec works definitely can increase your understanding of how to tackle mass spec based problems later on. We recognize it's something beyond what people normally study to prepare for this event, especially if you cater to the national supervisor's style, but we generally hope to deepen competitors' understandings of these things since there's so much behind them that often gets overlooked by writers.
About the reagents: we were equally as surprised as you at that. We indeed tested your bottle with baking soda after you left since it was the actual very end of the day and literally everyone had gone. It fizzed. We then grabbed all the other bottles labeled as "NaOH" and tested them too. They all fizzed as well. We then grabbed the stock solution that was labeled as "NaOH," which was a bottle where the original label was "HCl" but that had been crossed out and "NaOH" had been written there instead. We poured some of that stock solution on baking soda, and it indeed fizzed. More or less after you brought that up to us, we discovered that the stock solution that we were supposedly preparing "NaOH" from was actually HCl. We never anticipated that coming, to be quite honest. We trusted that the label on the bottle of stock solution accurately reflected the contents it contained, and unfortunately, it didn't, which really, really surprised and frustrated us.
Since that was discovered at the very end of the day, all the teams had been affected by it. As unfortunate as that mistake was, it at least had a consistent impact on everyone. In addition, we threw the powder IDs for specific powders for which NaOH was critical to the identification completely out of the scores, so no one got points for those IDs, even if they got it correct. Only one powder fell under this circumstance though, so none of the scores were severely impacted by the decision.
We apologize that it happened, and we will be extra careful to make sure something like this never happens again. Thank you for the compliments tho - we greatly appreciate your feedback since it helps us continue to evolve our event supervisor practices and to improve our preparation process.
If anyone else has feedback, whether positive or negative, for us, our emails are on your answer sheet, and feel free to contact us!